I have just built myself a beast gaming PC. I know basically everything there is to know about computers, I can program stuff, etc. But when I looked into the audio world, my pants were soiled. I need an explanation of the terminology, and then maybe a suggested setup. I really listen to music a lot, and want to experience an audiophile experience. The things I need explained are a DAC, Reviever, Amplifier, and just the all around difference between your run-of-the-mill Astro's or Turtle Beaches and an audiophile setup. I use headphones a lot, but speakers every once in a while when I'm not on Skype.
dac: digital analog converter. basically it converts one signal type to another. soundcards and receivers include one however its also possible to buy them as a seperate unit.
amplifier: analog signals coming out of microphones, the line out on your soundcard or from a dac are not strong enough to power speakers which require a much stronger signal (power) to drive. an amplifier basically boosts the signal while keeping the shape of the sine waves intact.
receiver: pretty much an all in one box which includes an amplifier, dac, tuner and a few other features.
i would highly suggest searching google for "how a __________ works" and filling in for those three terms above. it will give you all the details that i honestly dont feel like listing but might give you a more in depth understanding.
whats the difference between good speakers and bad? well for starters sound quality and build quality. a good pair of speakers sounds much better than a cheap pair you get just about anywhere. also they tend to be more aesthetically pleasing and arent build with shoddy quality.
there are 3 sizes of speakers:
satelites are the small ones about the same size as computer speakers. they are easy to hide but lack decent low end output due to the small driver sizes. you would want to use a sub with them. i myself use these (you can see a photo in my sig link) and they work good. these are best for small rooms but could be used in medium sized rooms.
bookshelves are larger speakers between a foot to two feet tall normally. they have quite a bit more output than satelites and some can even be used without a subwoofer due to the increased bass output. they take more power to drive typically and are harder to hide however are a great option for medium to large sized rooms. they can be a bit much for small rooms but if turned down are okay.
floorstanders are large tower speakers anywhere from three to four feet tall and have many drivers. they provide the largest output of volume and sound so work best for large rooms. most theater sets feature tower speakers up front with bookshelf speakers in the rear.
subwoofers have a single very large driver used exclusively for low end or bass output. they help with any of the speaker sizes however is absolutely required if using satelites since they lack low end.
if you want a suggestion you need to list your country of origin, your max budget for everything, what you want (surround, 2.1, 2.1+headphone+mic, etcetera)
even headphones have different quality levels. i myself use a pair of ath-m50 studio headphones and i can say for a fact that they sound quite a bit better than normal headphones or any gaming headset that i've heard. however, they are only 2.0 not "surround sound" like some of the newer headsets try to be. however with good virtual surround software emulating it there is almost no difference except your sound quality is way up.
the same can be said for a good microphone. increased quality and sensitivity.
for mostly music with perhaps some gaming you could make do with a pair of bookshelves or perhaps even a pair with a sub. as far as how to power them well you have a choice. you could go with an amplifier if you want to use your soundcard to output the sound to them. if you have a decent soundcard this isnt a bad idea. if you want an all digital signal to the amp (best quality) then you would need a dac unit on top of the amp or you would need a dac integrated into the amp. if you want to connect 2,3 or more sources to the speakers then a receiver starts to make alot of sense. it allows you to easily swap between many sources and it accepts all manner of inputs. i use it to connect my pc, ps3, ps2 and sometimes other sources like ipod or laptop to my tv and sound system. all i do to switch is turn a knob. however if only connecting up to a computer its not the best budgetary choice.
you need to provide details on what you like to do and how much space you have in addition to the questions i asked above.
Ok thank you so much for answering. My budget is about 1500. From your description a receiver sounds best for me due to me having two gaming pc's, an xbox 360, a ps4 and an occasionally used nintendo 64.
In my setup I would like both speakers and headphones, and dude I really appreciate you taking your time to do this for me, I would have no idea what to look for. The headphones I have been eyeing for an advanced audio setup are: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA1J7...
sennheiser headphones are generally pretty decent however they consistantly lack decent low end bass.
5 sources? yes i'd suggest a receiver if you intend to keep all of them connected.
you didnt answer my questions such as space, how many speaker you would like, size of speakers, etcetera
a budget of $1500 is pretty fair but what country? (usa i take it since you listed newegg??)
just for comparision the system i'm currently using cost about the same as your budget. i'm using a set of klipsch satelites with a 450w sub and pioneer receiver. works out good in a 14x13 approx sized room.
i can discuss a few options later.... do get back to me on your thoughts in detail though about what you want.
My dream setup for the budget I gave is a 7.1 surround setup, and a decent pair of headphones. Now I am willing to save up a bit more if it means quality and reliability. I would need 3 or more HDMI passthroughs and a few optical passthroughs. I don't know what a reciever entails or how to set one up, but I think I can figure it out with the internet and my brain power. I would like two bookshelf speakers, and a good sub, and whatever other speakers are needed for a surround. The only things I am extremely confused about are the DAC and the amplifier. To make all this possible to connect to my pc do I need a sound card? I have been using onboard audio forever. My motherboard is an X79 -Deluxe.
Oh yeah, my desk has a lot of free space, like I could fit two more 32 inch monitors on this desk, and still have a room up front for a bunch of stuff, and the floor around my desk is free. Screw it, my entire room is basically empty except for my dresser, this desk, and my bed. To answer the question about my location, I am indeed living in the US
well if you want to discuss your options real quick a bit easier i can host an IRC chat room on the web you can join. its easier to go over things that way (its less confusing on your end since you can ask questions).
respond back if you'd like that... i'm in eastern standard and i can do it any time tonight.